DAILY MUSIC | Starting music as an adult: how to choose your instrument?

(Photo: Tim Mossholder, Pexels.)

In my previous column, I talked about the benefits of learning a musical instrument as an adult. After reading this text, some of you may have decided to give it a try. But how to choose the instrument that suits you? Is there anything you should know before taking action? Here are some ideas to fuel your thinking.

The first thing to know is that there is no right or wrong choice. You have the right to make mistakes, to change your mind, as long as pleasure is at the heart of your approach. Does the sound of this instrument particularly touch you? Will it allow you to play pieces that thrill you? I also invite you to put aside all your preconceived ideas (you know that little voice that tells you that it’s too late to start playing the violin at your age?). Regardless of your background, the number of springs you have accumulated or your “talent” in music (a very debatable concept in my opinion!), dare! It is possible to learn all instruments, without exception, at any age.

transverse flute
(Photo: stockvault)

So let’s start from this premise to explore together some criteria that can help you make an informed choice.

First, think about the style of music you like. If Chopin’s melancholy pieces make you cry every time, the ukulele may not be your instrument of choice (although…)! If you like jazz or blues, you might consider saxophone, trumpet or double bass. Rock or metal fan? Opt for drums or electric guitar. Jacks-of-all-trades will appreciate the versatility of the violin, which allows you to explore classical, film music, trad, jazz or klezmer, while enthusiasts from distant lands might want to explore a more exotic instrumentarium, like that offered by the Center of World Musicians. In short, take the time to observe what kind of music appeals to you and you will already have a good lead.

On a more prosaic note, there are also some important factors to consider. Do you live in an apartment on 3e floor of a building without an elevator? Unless you are particularly fit, I would avoid the harp… And if your walls are made of paper, the trumpet risks getting you into some trouble with the neighborhood! Attention cyclists: a transverse flute fits well in a backpack, but not a double bass…

You should also know that certain instruments require special maintenance. The drought of winter can, for example, wreak havoc on a piano or a stringed instrument whose humidity level has been neglected for too long.

Stock photo Piano NB Steinway_Dolo Iglesias
Stock photo Piano NB Steinway_Dolo Iglesias

Your personality could also influence your choice. The piano will be more suitable for loners while orchestral instruments will fill a social need (not as satisfying playing the triangle alone in your room!). Generally and somewhat stereotypically, certain instruments accompany while others play the melody. What role do you want to take within an ensemble? Double bass players will be happy to support the musical structure while violinists will love to shine in the treble.

And contrary to what you might think, learning music is not necessarily expensive. As with certain sports, it is possible to have fun without spending a fortune on high-end equipment. In this sense, the cheapest and easiest instrument to transport is undoubtedly… the voice! Many amateur choirs are often looking for choristers. Some require an audition, but some welcome everyone who simply wishes to share the pleasure of singing together, without even knowing how to read music. Do a quick search on the web and you will surely find a choir in your area waiting for you!

If you prefer an instrument, know that many of them can be rented. Some stores even offer rental with purchase option, which allows you to learn the instrument while saving money. Whether you want to learn piano, a stringed instrument, guitar, a wind or percussion instrument or even a large concert harp, all can be rented!

In summary, there is no absolute rule for choosing your instrument. It all depends on your tastes, interests, personality and lifestyle. I even know a good number of amateur musicians who play several instruments. Everything is possible! As long as you do it with pleasure and joy!

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